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Ghana Life: Wildlife in Kumasi

May 30, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 216

International travellers who stay in five star hotels and only glimpse their surroundings from the window of air-conditioned transport on their way to and from the airport often complain that every place is the same in the modern world. Yet anyone who is prepared to take a walk outside on quieter streets or in small town parks will find that the wildlife that crosses their path can still locate them in a unique location. Kumasi, Ghana's second city and the old capital of the Ashanti empire, has a unique combination of native fauna that fixes it in the memory of every visitor.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous creature seen scampering in every open space and on every outside wall is a large lizard. Males can be more than 30 centimetres long with black bodies and red-orange heads. Most of the year the colours are faded, the black is more a dirty grey, but in the mating season black is black and heads are almost fluorescent. These large lizards constantly nod their heads up and down in a characteristic manner best understood by the female of the species.

The female is smaller and pale green with orange markings on her back. One curious feature is that the orange colour is quite a different shade from that of the male's head; so much so that the average casual observer would not connect them as the same species if they were not seen so often connected. When she is ready for connection, the female curls her long tail forwards over her head in a manner that sends a clear message to her mate.

Two carrion birds have refused to retreat to the forest and maintain a permanent presence in the city. These are often seen in the roads, picking at the remains of victims of the traffic. The smaller and faster moving are crows with black and white markings reminiscent of European magpies but larger and less elegant. These hungry birds will play a game of dare with passing vehicles; holding on until the last possible moment before taking to the air. Their bluff is seldom called and bird strikes with crows are rare events.

Vultures, though equally hungry, are well aware of their aerodynamic limitations. Taking a run of several clumsy hops before lifting off, they start the process at the first sound of an approaching vehicle. In spite of this early warning system, many vultures would be hit were it not for most drivers' reluctance to collide with such a big and ugly creature. Not all are on the road, however, hundreds have taken up a permanent perch on the roof of Kumasi's slaughter house on the left of the broad road that sweeps up the hill to Kumasi's Garden City of Nhyiasu.

Most lay persons might find it difficult to raise much enthusiasm for lizards, crows and vultures but in climbing the hill to Nhyiasu one comes to the leafy suburbs that are visited by the more glamorous birds of the surrounding forests. Included amongst these are large flocks of African grey parrots that can descent upon a tall garden tree in a flurry of bright red breasts that can stir the heart of the most hardened five star hotel resident.

John Powell

To learn more about the intriguing story of the grassroots industrial revolution in the turbulent Ghana of the second half of the twentieth century, read John Powell's novel The Colonial Gentleman's Son or his non-fictional account The Survival of the Fitter. More details of these books and photographs of the informal sector artisans of Suame Magazine in Kumasi will be found on the following websites.

Source: EzineArticles
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